I recently attended the Masters, where I got to see some amazing golf shots. A course like Augusta National is one of the most challenging around, and it takes tremendous skill and mental toughness to compete there. As I watched gifted professionals work their way around Augusta, it was clear that the contenders were the ones who had a variety of shots in their bags and knew when each one was needed.
What shots do executives need to have to succeed in business communications?
To score well at the Masters, golfers need a bunch of different shots: long, straight drives; high, soft-landing approaches; deft pitches; and long, curling putts. Every hole at Augusta National is a different challenge, which is one of the reasons that the Masters is a great test of golf. The more I think about it, the more great communicators and great golfers have a common challenge. Both have to use their judgment and skill in reaching their targets.
If you’re an enterprise executive who wants to reach and engage an audience, what shots would you need to have in your bag? In my view, there are four main ones:
The straight drive. Matter-of-fact messages about the state of the business, where it’s going and how employees can get there, what customers and investors should expect, are critical to deliver well. In golf, we say the drive puts the ball in play. But where you put it to start with makes a big difference in how you finish.
The soft approach. Nuanced, strategic messages that involve discussion are like approach shots to the green. There is a reason why pro golfers consult their caddies more over approach shots than almost any other on the course. That is because the approach sets up the best chance of scoring well. Miss it, and the recovery is usually a lot harder. Misjudge the distance or select the wrong club on the approach, and you could lose strokes or fall out of contention altogether. Don’t risk confusing or disengaging your audience on the approach shot.
The deft pitch. Persuasive messages that inspire confidence resemble the short, scoring shots near the green. With a good approach shot, a skillful pitch makes for an easier closing putt. By the same token, pitching out of a greenside bunker can help a golfer save par. This is a critical shot to have, but you have to get your organization in the right position first.
The closer. Golf’s greatest champions are all clutch putters. They are able to calm their nerves while standing over the must-make putts, long or short, to win. When businesses get into must-win situations, the right messages help rally the troops and increase their focus, and strong closings can seal the deal with key customers and prospects. If you want your organization to win, practice the closing messages.
What “shots” have helped you communicate effectively?